There’s no arguing it: Hip-hop is the most exciting genre of music right now. And 2015 looks as if it will be equal in magnitude, if not greater, than 2014 for hip-hop fans. Joey Bada$$ contributes to this upward trend with his latest release “B4.DA.$$.”
“B4.DA.$$” — meaning “before the money” — is Bada$$’s commercial debut. Before “B4.DA.$$,” Bada$$ appeared as a guest on other rappers’ records, independently released a few of his own mixtapes and almost signed to Jay-Z’s label. His consistency makes him the most relevant rapper in terms of the revitalization of the classic New York hardcore hip-hop sound. He is the at the head of a movement to bring back rap styles from 20 years ago, when Biggie Smalls, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan released their best material.
No rap album is complete without the work of its producers, and Bada$$ attracts the best in the business.The list of producers is immense, featuring the likes of DJ Premier, Chuck Strangers and Hit-Boy. Although it’s possible to underproduce a record, many, if not most, rap albums suffer from overproduction. Artists such as Rick Ross, 2 Chainz and J. Cole may have potential, but the production on their albums is consistently excessive, distracting from the lyrics. Other rappers have mastered production. Kanye West’s albums are notoriously loaded with effects, but these effects blend well with Kanye’s style.The producers on “B4.DA.$$” have struck the perfect chord between a sparce, underproduced album and an obnoxiously overproduced one.
Bada$$’s previous mixtapes were good, but they pale in comparison. The album opens in applause, foreshadowing its potential. There’s a vast collection of instruments, with drum machines, keyboards and violins all contributing to the mix. The beats range from smooth, charming and jazzy sounds to harder hitting, spacious tracks.
“B4.DA.$$” lacks features from other rappers, but Bada$$ emits the confidence and prowess to carry the album himself. Chock full of lyricism and word play, Bada$$’s songs showcase the more technical style of MCing. Bada$$ implements tricky internal rhymes and maintains a distinct voice compared to other artists.
Unfortunately, this album suffers from a a lack of originality. As much as I like Bada$$ and this album, his influences are apparent. Sure, other people are stealing some of Bada$$’s style, but if this album was judged solely on its originality, it’s not entirely unique. It’s been done before; nothing revolutionary is happening. On top of this, his style is somewhat inconsistent, as he becomes more boisterous in moments, often to his detriment. In “Save the Children,” Bada$$ raps, “She in love, but I ain’t got a bow and arrow. I’m known to jack the booty like Sparrow.” Lines such as these show that he is still young with a lot to learn.
My favorite section of the album is right in the middle. Tracks seven and eight demonstrate Bada$$’s skill in full force. “Like Me” has some playful, sexual imagery in the beginning but turns dark as the song progresses. In “Belly of the Beast,” Bada$$ describes his upbringing, and the sense of danger and entrapment is clear. The rest of the album proves his versatility and ends with emotional cuts.
“B4.DA.$$” is a perfect display of the young and talented Bada$$. The album may be light on originality, but if a listener wants some food for thought, this album is perfect.